When starting out in the world of ecommerce, one of the first things you need to consider is your domain name. These days the process is fairly easy.
This can be quite a daunting prospect and you may be not aware of what a domain name actually is, let alone how to find one and then register it.
In this simple guide, we will cover all bases from the definition of a domain right through to the setup.
What is a domain name?
The domain name is the web address for your website. This is what users will type into the address bar on their chosen browser in order to visit your website.
That's the simple explanation of what is. In more complicated terms, you first need to understand that the internet is essentially a massive global network that is connected through cables.
These cables are connected to computers which have the ability to talk to each other.
Each of these computers is assigned a unique IP address, which is a set of digits to help pinpoint each specific computer. An IP address is likely to look something like the following:
As you can imagine, having to remember a series of numbers like that is quite difficult. Therefore the domain name was created in order to make it easier for the user. This is done by the domain name system (DNS) which corresponds the domain name with it's IP address.
How much does a domain name cost?
Domain pricing starts from $0.99 a month. When you register a new domain the pricing structures can be a bit confusing.
Most domain providers will offer a reduced price for the first year, so make sure to check what the monthly charge will be in the small print.
In some instances, the domain name can be free. In order for this to be the case, you will need to take out a web hosting plan with your domain provider. SiteGround is a provider that can offer web hosting, as well as managed WordPress plans, these come recommended by WooCommerce and WordPress.
You're probably wondering, well what's web hosting?
Web hosting is basically where all the files of your website live. So it's possible to purchase your domain name and web hosting from two separate companies. However, we would strongly suggest purchasing both from the same company to make things much more manageable for you.
Types of domains
The cost of your domain is all dependent on what top-level domain (TLD) you decide upon.
There are now over 100 different TLD's to choose from, including .com, .co.uk, .org or .biz. We would strongly suggest going with a .com domain as these are always favored by search engines and are therefore beneficial for your SEO.
From GoDaddy's site, you can see the varying choices. If you want to be unique and stand out you may want to use a TLD that reflects your business. Do you sell coffee items online? Then you can opt for a .coffee domain.
Best places to buy a domain name
There are a whole host of different providers of domains. Providers of these domains are known in the business as ICANN's which means an internet corporation for assigned names and numbers.
So which are the best domain registrars? Here are 3 of the best in our opinion.
NameCheap practices what they preach, they are cheap by name and cheap by nature. In fact, they offer a number of free domains which include .host, .online or .site.
Not only that but they have some fantastic customer reviews. Boasting an average 4.7/5 from over 1.5 million reviews.
NameCheap also offers some great functionality to help you discover your perfect domain name, with a tool they've christened “Beast Mode”.
This allows you to enter certain keywords related to your business, set a price range and TLD. The tool will then generate ideas for you. If your original option isn't available then NameCheap is able to offer alternatives with their powerful prefix/suffix tool.
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Host up to 3 domains on the starter plan
- Easy to use interface
- Free domains available
Since launching in 2004, SiteGround now hosts over 2 million domains. Starting from $11.95, they offer a mix of popular domains, country-specific and special domains such as .blog and .online.
Recently they have added 30 new special domains and you can save up to 35% on the price of new domains.
SiteGround also offers unlimited subdomains for your URL. This is particularly helpful if you are looking to test out your website and you want somewhere for that to be hosted.
- 24/7 support
- Unlimited subdomains
- Intuitive interface
- Flexible server location
Even if you had no knowledge of ecommerce business, then it's still likely that you will have heard of GoDaddy. They are arguably the biggest domain name registrar in the world.
They have the most impressive range of domain TLD's on offer, which is no surprise that they have over 20+ million customers. They have packages that allow you to register your domain for up to 10 years. The longer you register if for, the higher the discount you will receive.
If you are looking to generate some extra money for your ecommerce business then you might consider domain investing via GoDaddy's Discount Domain Club. This allows you to buy and sell domains for a profit.
- Domain extension options
- Live Chat and phone customer support
- Search and buy domains in bulk
- Discount Domain Club
Google is another option for domain registration. Google Domains is currently in Beta but can still currently offer more than 300 different domain endings for your business.
Google has a great bit of functionality that allows you to favourite your URLs of choice which you can then share with friends or colleagues for feedback.
Google domains also come with an insight option that gives you advantages and considerations based on your URL choice. This is based on length, memorability and complexity.
Google also offers privacy protection for free. This means that a third party provides alternative contact information on your listing in the WHOIS directly, meaning you won't be subject to spam.
When you go to the checkout you will see that the domain will auto-renew every year and there are no hidden fees. However, Google doesn't offer a discount based on how many years you purchase the domain. Which is offered by GoDaddy and NameCheap.
- Transparent fees
- 24/7 support
- Privacy protection
- URL insights
How to find the right domain name
As we've pointed out the ICANN's above have their own domain name generators, however, there are a number of other sites which you can use to find the best domain for your business.
Before you do though it's worth bearing in mind these key factors to ensure you have a memorable domain name.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens
- Use .com for SEO benefits
- Make it short and easy to spell
More and more domains are being registered every day which means all the popular domains are taken, so finding one that's available can be very frustrating.
Domainr has taken that on board and allows you to search instantaneously with their per-keystroke domain name search engine. Just begin entering the name and Domainr can tell you which domains are available and also if that keyword is available as a TLD.
Once you have entered your keyword and there is an available option, you can then select the URL and it will give the options that the URL is available from. By default the “Buy Now” buttons links out to GoDaddy.
There are many domain name generators on the market which are always fun to have a play around with. You can enter a keyword plus refine the TLD's that you want to show for that keyword.
Domain Wheel will then generate a URL that will contain a prefix or suffix to your keyword.
Further to this, there's also an option at the bottom of the page to find words that sound like your keyword, rhyme with it, or a broad suggestion of that keyword.
How to register a domain name
Once you have found your domain is time to purchase it and register it to your business.
When you enter the checkout you will be prompted to include some additional add ons to your domain. What you can add can be dependent on the domain registrar. In the examples above Google offers privacy protection, where that needs to be added to the other 2.
Email is a typical add-on for your domain. This allows you to have a custom email that matches your business e.g. [email protected] Not only does this look professional but it also builds trust with your customers.
Once you have checked out you will then need to add your contact information so that the WHOIS database can be updated with your details. Again, it's good to choose a provider with privacy protection to ensure you don't get spammed.
The updating of this information can take 24-72 hours. Ensure you confirm your email address with your provider as this will be complete the registration. If you fail to do that your domain name will be available again for others.
How to buy a domain that is already taken
What happens if you already have products and a business plan in mind, only to find that the domain name you wanted is already being used? The easy thing to do would be to use the same business name but just change the TLD.
Before you do that it's worth checking to see if you can purchase the original that you had in mind.
Identify what the website is being used for
Firstly check the website and find out if it's still in use. It might not have been updated in a while, or it's been purchased and the website hasn't been launched yet.
If it's the latter then it might be the case that the owner has purchased it and is looking for a good offer, just to sell it on.
Find the owners of the domain
The next thing you need to do is find out who owns the website.
Alternatively, you can use GoDaddy's WHOIS database. The key information you will be given is:
- registration date of the domain
- contact information
- domain expiration date
If they have used privacy protection here though it will be difficult to find the right contact information. Therefore you may need to get creative and enter the site through Google and identify if they have a LinkedIn page and reach out that way.
Decide what your budget is
It's worth having an idea of how much you are willing to pay before purchasing your domain. There are several factors that can affect how much you pay.
- Keywords – domains that have popular keywords in them will be seen favorably by Google. Ash Young was able to make a million pounds in his first year, he puts this down to strong keywords and paying £3,500 for CarMats.co.uk
- Vagueness – if the keywords are quite vague and could apply to several companies then this will make the price higher. For example, gardenpots.com could be very pricey as it's targetted and applies to so many businesses
- Length – less is more when it comes to domain names. If it's short and punchy then it's likely to cost more
- Age – the older the domain, the more valuable they are perceived to be. This is because they are likely to already have built a reputation and are recognized by search engines
Contact the owner
The last stage is to then contact the owner. As mentioned about you can use a company like Domain Agents to negotiate these deals on your behalf.
You will need to pay a service to use these companies, so it might be worth just sending a polite email yourself. If there is an upcoming expiry date you might want to wait until that's passed first. If you show you're interested they may purchase it again for another year and charge you more.
10 tips before buying a domain name
As well as the process we thought it would be handy to give you tips before you proceed with your domain name registration,
1. Shortened URL – when looking for your domain for your online presence, it's worth it if there's a shortened URL available as well. This is great for including in text messages and also for your social media posts. Let's say your business is called Gardenesque, is gardesq.co available? This can help click-through rate on your marketing output
2. Renewals – it's a cost that isn't factored in at the beginning. By default, your domain will be renewed at the end of the year at a much higher price. If you have the money to spare initially it's worth registering a domain for a few years in advance
3. Length – there is a 63 character limit with URLs, but you shouldn't be going anywhere near that. Ensure your URL is short, includes your business name, and helps to reflect your brand
4. Web hosting – a lot of domain providers also offer web hosting. As we mentioned earlier it's best to get these from the same provider, GoDaddy offers this option but browse around. There are other great providers out there such as Bluehost
5. Website builder – it's not just web hosting but some of these companies also offer a website builder. If you are looking to build an ecommerce website though, we would suggest going with Shopify or WordPress
6. Dot Com – there are now hundreds of TLD's but nothing can come close to .com. Not only does it give you an SEO benefit but it instills trust in the customer
7. Backorders – if the domain you want is taken and you've checked on WHOIS and identified that it is expiring soon then you place it on backorder. GoDaddy gives you the ability to put yourself in line for it. If several people are on backorder for it, then your initial payment will be used as the first bid in an auction
8. Social Media – when checking if your domain is available it's worth seeing if there are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for that keyword. It's best to have a uniform name across all your social media platforms for consistency
9. Trademarks – is there a trademark against the name you're choosing? A bar in Swansea recently got in trouble with Hugo Boss for using the word “Boss” in their name. It's worth checking if there are any patents again your company name
10. Discussions – as we highlighted earlier, you can favorite domains through Google. Create a list and canvas opinions from your friends